The US military is the largest in the world, with over one million people and billions of dollars in weapons. Housing, training, and sustaining such a large operation requires huge military bases around the world and in the United States itself. Here are the largest military bases by surface area you can find in the country today!

Military bases are facilities owned by the military and where the armed forces can store personnel, equipment, weapons, and more. Large military bases have many different purposes, including training, shelter, and strategic planning.

Military bases are usually massive because they have to house plenty of soldiers and weapons. They’re large enough to function as independent cities. Some even have their own zip codes!

Exact numbers about personnel and surface area are not available for all military bases because some of this information is confidential, so this list uses a few criteria. Here are some of the largest military bases in the country.

15. Chocolate Mountain Air Gunnery Range

Chocolate Mountain Air Gunnery Range spreads over 458,267 acres in southern California. It is part of the Marine Corps facilities.

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The main purpose of this military base is for use as a bombing range and for training aviation combat crews. Ace pilots have come here for training since the years right after World War Two.

This gunnery range falls under the jurisdiction of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma.

14. Cusick Survival Training Site

Military personnel need to be ready to survive in any conditions. For that purpose, the Air Force owns the Cusick Survival Training Site, which sprawls over 494,250 acres or 771 square miles in the state of Washington. 

The survival training area covers a mountain with an elevation of 802 meters (2631 feet). Trainees go through a variety of scenarios in all sorts of weather, including general wilderness survival and escaping from an enemy.

The base is not among the largest in terms of personnel, but it covers a large surface area because they need space for all their training exercises.

13. Utah Test and Training South

Besides being one of the largest military bases in the United States, at 572,656 acres or 894 square miles, Utah Test and Training has the largest block of overland restricted airspace in the United States when combined with its North equivalent.

Even though it has a large area, it is very sparsely populated due to its use as a testing facility, so that’s why it’s not higher on this list.

Utah Test and Training might get even bigger because the Air Force is looking into buying more surrounding land.

12. 29 Palms Marine Base

This is another sprawling military base located in the wilds of California. The whole base covers a sprawling 935 square miles and hosts about 20,000 permanent residents, personnel, and their families.

Every day, the number of people present at 29 Palms is much higher than 20,000 because thousands of Marines come here each year to train. The main purpose of this base is to train personnel for combat.

29 Palms is the largest property owned by the Marines. 

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11. Dugway Proving Ground

Many of the US’s largest military bases in terms of surface area are in the American West, where there is plenty of wide-open space for the military’s needs. Dugway Proving Ground, located in Utah, follows this trend.

This is one of the largest bases in the United States in terms of surface area, although it’s not that big in terms of personnel. This base covers around 800,000 acres or 1,250 square miles.

The Army owns Dugway Proving Ground and uses it to test biological and chemical weapons. No wonder they need that much space!

10. Fort Wainwright

Fort Wainwright
CC0 Fort Wainwright

Everything is bigger in Alaska, including the military bases. Fort Wainwright covers a total surface area of 900,000 acres or 1,406 square miles. 

The fort has several different parts, including the main post, ranges, and military maneuver areas which take up the most space. Fort Wainwright belongs to the Army, which uses this sprawling installation to train personnel for operations in Arctic conditions.

Fort Wainwright is home to about 15,000 people year-round, mostly Army personnel and their families who live in the part of the base located in Fairbanks.

9. Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake

Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake consists of two parts: the China Lake area and the Lake Randsburg Wash Area. Together, they make up the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, which covers 1 million acres and is the largest single property owned by the Navy.

This base is located in China Lake, a dry lake in California. The Navy mostly uses it for testing weapons and developing new, advanced technology.

Most of the area of the base is used for testing weapons, so not too many people live here, a little over 1,000 personnel.

8. Barry M. Goldwater Range

The entire Barry M. Goldwater Range sprawls over 1.9 million acres in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, near the Mexican border.

Sometimes the range is split into two parts on ranking lists, Goldwater West which is managed by the Marine Corps, and Goldwater East which is managed by the Air Force.

Although it is very large in terms of surface area, the range doesn’t have a lot of personnel, which prevents it from ranking higher.

7. Fort Benning

Fort Benning is very big, but not one of the largest bases in the country in terms of surface area, clocking in at “only” 130,000 acres. The base is large enough to span land in two states, Georgia and Alabama.

However, it is one of the largest military bases in the country in terms of population. Fort Benning is home to over 100,000 military personnel, staff, and family members. The fort is operated by the Army as a basic training center and home base for combat-ready troops.

If you’ve watched military movies, you might have seen Fort Benning because it is a popular movie set.

6. Fort Bliss

Everything is bigger in Texas, including the military bases. Fort Bliss frequently tops lists of the largest military bases both in terms of surface area and in terms of population. 

Fort Bliss sprawls over approximately 1.12 million acres of land, mostly in Texas and reaching into New Mexico, when counting all of its training facilities. It is home to nearly 100,000 military personnel and their families.

Fort Bliss is one of the oldest Army forts in the West, founded in 1848. The world-famous Army Rangers train here and the 1st Armored Division is based here.

5. Joint Base Lewis-McChord

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is one of the few military bases that all branches can use as a base. It is jointly operated by the Army and Air Force.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is large in terms of surface area—it covers over 647 square miles divided between western Washington and Yakima. Its total population is about 110,000 people including active-duty military personnel, family members, and staff.

This base is interesting because of its shared ownership.

4. Fort Hood

Fort Hood in Texas is one of the largest bases in the country in terms of population. About 217,000 people call Fort Hood home, including military personnel, civilian contractors, and their families. 

The surface area of Fort Hood is nothing to sneeze at either. This Army base covers around 214,968 acres. The Army established it during World War Two to test tank destroyers, and it still uses the space to test large weapons.

It may not be the largest, but Fort Hood is one of the most famous bases in the country because it was where celebrities such as Elvis Presley did their military training.

3. Fort Campbell

Fort Campbell
CC0 Fort Campbell

Fort Campbell in the southeastern United States is a veritable mini-city. It is home to 234,900 people including about 29,000 active personnel.

The fort sprawls across the Tennessee-Kentucky state border and covers over 105,000 acres. Most of this space is taken up by maneuver spaces and training facilities for the Army.

However, the fort also needs enough facilities to support its considerable civilian population, so some of its surface area is dedicated to creature comforts such as a mall, schools, and even a bowling area.

2. White Sands Missile Range

White Sands Missile Range
Shashi Bellamkonda White Sands Missile Range

White Sands Missile Range is the nation’s largest surface testing range and the largest military base in terms of surface area. It covers a whopping 3,200 square miles of desert in southern New Mexico.

Missile near White Sands
Birdie Jaworski Missile near White Sands

Most of the land is used for testing missiles, so White Sands is very sparsely populated. A little more than 1,000 active-duty personnel and employees call this place home.

The Army owns and operates White Sands, but NASA also uses this facility to train pilots.

1. Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg
CC0 Fort Bragg

Fort Bragg is the largest U.S. military base in terms of population. About 270,811 people live on the Fort, including about 50,000 active-duty personnel. 

The Army owns Fort Bragg, which covers about 251 square miles and two zip codes in North Carolina. The fort serves as the base for many of the army’s operations, including hosting the Forces Command, operating two airfields, and training personnel.

Fort Bragg is somewhat controversial because it is named after a Confederate general.

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